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A possible spiritual cure for focus issues (ADD / ADHD)

For years now I have suffered from ADD/ADHD-like symptoms that make it difficult for me to initiate working on tasks or to focus on completing them. I have tried various medications and supplements and none of them has lived up to its promise. Since early 2021 I have switched my focus to seeking psychological cures, and have discovered many things that help (such as forcing myself to write poetry).

But in the last two weeks I have discovered something immensely powerful after remembering Brother Lawrence’s 1692 classic The Practicing the Presence of God (a very short book, link to free version). If I feel restricted by ADHD symptoms, I bring God fully to mind and remain with Him, and within seconds I feel the front and sides of my brain “waking up” (I seen to have a very sensitive brain and I can feel physical sensations in different parts of it when there is a strong stimulus that causes a mental shift). That, I believe, means that extra blood is flowing to the prefrontal cortex (needed for executive function / planning and remaining on tasks) and the temporal lobes (needed for doing any creative work).

And the reason it works is that the presence of this Person in the mind suddenly starts to activate the brain’s prefrontal circuits that are dedicated to tracking and analyzing a person who is present with us (to know their thinking and intentions). And as this Person can be spoken to, this also activates the creative temporal lobes, empowering us to carry out self-expression.

I realize that I have sometimes gone for months while almost always having God in mind with me, and those are probably my most productive months. Last year in August I realized that the only times when my mind was full of inspiration and I constantly took down notes on ideas coming into my head were times when I practiced God’s presence. I went to my notes app, took note of the periods in which many ideas were written, then compared them to my record of times when I had completed the reading of the Quran many times, and the times lined up. The times when I read the Quran often are also times when I have God the most in mind, the two go together although I do not know which one causes which.

How to do it

The way to practice the presence of God is simple. Simply start speaking to God in your mind, as you do when you are praying to Him for something. And at some point you are able to remain in contact with Him without having to say anything–He just becomes a friend who is with you. And as you do it more often it becomes easier and easier, just as when a stranger is in the house with you, at first their presence can distract you, but as you get to know them you can sense their presence without it taking away your attention from other things.

If you struggle to keep God in mind, merely go back to speaking with Him by praying for something, such as by saying astaghfirullāh (“I seek God’s forgiveness”). It should be done sincerely and with all your heart, as if you are really speaking to a person. If it’s merely a word you say, it will to bring you into His presence to reap the benefits.

If for whatever reason you feel unworthy of speaking to God and being in His presence, here’s something I wrote to a friend a few days ago:

Never let Satan make you think you are unworthy of speaking to God. Be brave when facing God and think "I'm unworthy but that doesn't matter, I'm still Your creature and You have to take care of me." He responds kindly when someone speaks to Him as if He really exists and is present even if the person is angry and upset at Him. Being spoken to is one of His greatest pleasures regardless of the person's mood. He is kind and has a sense of humor, like a father who laughs at his angry little 2 year old daughter when she attacks him physically in a tantrum, and only feels love for her.

You may think you need to do a lot of repentance before you are worthy of being in God’s presence. But in Islam the word for repentance, tawba, literally means “to return”, and to merely bring God to mind and speak to Him is to return to Him, thus achieving repentance. InshaAllah (God-willing) as you practice His presence more and more, it will become second nature to avoid anything that displeases Him.

Another possible reason it works is attachment (look up attachment theory). Being in the presence of a “caregiver” (an important term within attachment theory and it can be anyone whom we love and trust) calms us down, reduces inflammation, and increases cerebral blood flow, enhancing our thinking and self-expression and giving us confidence to explore. Meanwhile, the absence of a caregiver leads to anxiety, lack of curiosity, inflammation, fear of exploration, fear of self-expression, and reduced cerebral blood flow. And what caregiver is better than God?

Obviously there are a great many spiritual benefits from practicing the presence of God, but that’s a different topic and not the focus of this article.

An update and some books

I apologize for going missing for so long. I had a worsening of my chronic fatigue condition in early 2020 that made it impossible for me to write, or to even sit at my computer to do any kind of work or even casual browsing of websites I used to enjoy.

Now that I’m feeling healthy, it’s quite difficult to empathize with my former self who couldn’t even get out a sentence. How is it possible not to be able to write a single sentence?

It seems that I might be able to start doing my usual work again; writing articles and essays, answering questions and verifying hadiths. But it may still be too early to tell.

I have updated the site to require an account to comment to reduce spam and low-effort comments. InshaAllah I will also consider adding social login.

The most important breakthrough in recovering from my “chronic fatigue” (I’m not sure if it is the same as the famous chronic fatigue condition, but the condition has been chronic and it has involved extreme fatigue) was taking the psychological route of treatment. Learning about attachment theory provided me with the key I needed, and after months of thinking and experimenting I have been able to reorganize my mind, so to speak, in a way that allows me to be motivated and energetic again. I only really grasped the power of human psychology when after succeeding in feeling energetic and motivated I would slip into the old mindsets and instantly my muscles would weaken, my breathing would get shallow and I would again feel too tired to work at a computer.

But another breakthrough in the last few weeks has been elderberry extract. This is perhaps the strongest anti-viral supplement there is. In my teens I became ill with something that gave me a sore throat that has never gone away (it seems the same happened to Dostoevsky), and it seems that part of chronic fatigue is a viral infection, perhaps EBV. This is a virus that almost everyone in the world carries, but in the majority it causes no symptoms.

Amazon link. WARNING: If you get elderberry extract capsules instead, only take them with a full meal. I got very serious liver overload symptoms after taking the capsules on an empty stomach.

To the right is the brand of elderberry extract I’m using. I have to take multiple tablespoons throughout the day. I’m also taking iodide (up to 12.5 mg a day), although I’m not sure yet if it’s needed. I’m also taking other things. Feel free to email me for more details (, I’m happy if I can help anyone’s condition get better.

Alhamdulillah in June 2020 I had recovered enough to start reading again, and since then I have done a great deal of it. I was able to read thirty books by C. S. Lewis and such important classics as Moby Dick (I actually read it twice!) and War and Peace.

I even read Josef van Ess’s 4-volume Theology and Society in the Second and Third Centuries of the Hijra, a book every Islamic studies researcher wants to have read but finds too daunting to start. What an amazing book! In it you can read about Islam before it became the Islam we recognize today; before the 4 madhhabs were founded and almost every great scholar was his own “sect”, with various ideas and beliefs floating around among the most knowledgeable and pious scholars that today would be considered heretical.

But you may be happy to learn that I remain as dedicated to mainstream orthodox Islam as always. That 4-volume book might seem to be filled with weapons to attack today’s Islam and cause doubt among Muslims, but a well-read Islamic studies researcher will have already known before reading this book that that is how Islam was at the beginning and that that history is nothing to be ashamed about.

I read The Kindness of Enemies, a novel that I really, really liked (though the modern-day chapters not so much, perhaps due to not being a Western-raised Muslim immigrant myself like the heroine is). The novel alternates between modern-day chapters and historical chapters about Imam Shamil (a Chechen “freedom fighter” of the 1850’s, fighting against the Russian Empire). In one of those odd coincidences, I soon read Tolstoy’s The Cossacks, a novel about the conflict from a Russian soldier’s perspective.

The author’s treatment of Imam Shamil is extremely remarkable: here’s a woman writing about a man and his psychology with better understanding and empathy than the average male writer (reminding me of Edith Wharton); here’s a Muslim author writing about a hero of Islamic history without any melodrama or exaggeration (as far as I could tell), showing us the hero as merely a man, though a great man still. This is a breath of fresh air if you compare it to the typical stories about historical Muslim personalities found everywhere on Islamic sites. And here’s a Muslim author writing about the experiences of a non-Muslim Georgian princess with love and empathy.

I am hopeful that these remarkable features will soon stop being remarkable by becoming commonplace among Muslim writers and intellectuals, especially those living in the West.

That’s it for now. InshaAllah you will hear more from me.

The Quranic and hadith evidence for prohibiting touching non-mahrams

Assalamualaikum I came across a hadith on Facebook which says that touching any non- mahram woman is harām. I wanted to ask if that Hadith is authentic, and if it is so, then to what extent does this rule apply in our life. I mean I have female relatives who are quite elder to me( 9 years and more) . Is it allowed to shake hands with them or hug them if in my heart I consider them to be like my mothers and sisters?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Touching people of the opposite sex whom you can potentially marry (i.e. non-mahrams) is not permitted in Islam unless there is a good reason, as in a doctor touching a person of the opposite sex during a procedure. There is also an exception for shaking hands with a person of the opposite sex in order not to humiliate them by refusing the handshake. When it comes to shaking the hands of the relatives you mentioned or hugging them, it is best to avoid it, but it is not a great issue if you accept these gestures in order to avoid upsetting them, until you find an opportunity to tell them that you wish to avoid these things in the future for religious reasons. As for elders who are at an age where they would no longer consider marriage (perhaps 60 or more), then these rules can be relaxed. But if they are 30 or 40 years old, then the rules would continue to apply even if you are much younger than them.

The most explicit hadith we have on the issue of touching the opposite sex is the following:

لأن يطعن في رأس أحدكم بمخيط من حديد خير له من أن يمس امرأة لا تحل له

It is better for one of you to pierce his head with an iron needle than to touch a woman for whom she is not halal.


This hadith comes to us through Shaddad b. Saeed who is considered trustworthy but unreliable by many scholars, therefore this hadith is not guaranteed to be authentic and is therefore not relevant to this discussion.

The next hadith is one where the Prophet PBUH explicitly states that he does not shake women’s hands:

Muhammad bin Munkadir said that he heard Umaimah bint Ruqaiqah say:
“I came to the Prophet (ﷺ) with some other women, to offer our pledge to him. He said to us: ‘(I accept your pledge) with regard to what you are able to do. But I do not shake hands with women.’”

Sunan Ibn Majah Vol. 4, Book 24, Hadith 2874 and others.

Below is the chain diagram for this hadith:

This hadith receives an authenticity score of 38.69% according to our probabilistic hadith verification method. This score is rather high, since sahih hadiths start at 30%, meaning that this hadith is very high-quality.

The next hadith on touching non-mahrams is the following:

Aisha the wife of the Prophet, said, "Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) used to examine the believing women who migrated to him in accordance with this Verse: 'O Prophet! When believing women come to you to take the oath of allegiance to you… Verily! Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.' (60.12) `Aisha said, "And if any of the believing women accepted the condition (assigned in the above-mentioned Verse), Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) would say to her. "I have accepted your pledge of allegiance." "He would only say that, for, by Allah, his hand never touched, any lady during that pledge of allegiance. He did not receive their pledge except by saying, "I have accepted your pledge of allegiance for that."

Sahih al-Bukhari Book 65, Hadith 4891; Sahih Muslim 1866 a; other collections

Below is a chain diagram of the hadith:

This hadith receives an authenticity score of 27.57%, making it close to the authentic mark of 30%.

The above appears to be all of the explicit evidence we have on the touching of non-mahrams.

Evidence from lowering the gaze

The Quran commands us to “lower our gaze”. The context of the two verses that command this make it clear that it refers to gazing at the opposite sex idly and/or lustfully.

Tell the believing men to restrain their looks, and to guard their privates. That is purer for them. God is cognizant of what they do.

And tell the believing women to restrain their looks, and to guard their privates, and not display their beauty except what is apparent thereof, and to draw their coverings over their breasts, and not expose their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their women, what their right hands possess, their male attendants who have no sexual desires, or children who are not yet aware of the nakedness of women. And they should not strike their feet to draw attention to their hidden beauty. And repent to God, all of you believers, so that you may succeed. (The Quran, verses 24:30-31)

There are also hadiths that mention the same concept, as in the following:

Jarir said I asked the Apostle of Allaah(ﷺ) about an accidental glance (at a woman). He (ﷺ) said “Turn your gaze away.”

Sunan Abi Dawud 2148

Below is the chain diagram for this hadith:

This hadith receives an authenticity score of 12.14%, which is not very high. But it is easier to accept such hadiths as authentic due to their uncontroversial contents.

Naturally, if we are commanded to avoid gazing at the opposite sex idly or lustfully, then the same would apply to touching.

Evidence from the hijab

Another highly relevant area of evidence is that which applies to the rules on parts of the body that have to be covered. Naturally, if we are forbidden from looking at a certain part of a person’s body, we would also be forbidden from touching it. For the evidence on the rulings on which parts of the body should be covered see:


From the evidence presented above, it is clear that touching the opposite sex idly or lustfully is not permitted in Islam. The Prophet PBUH avoided shaking women’s hands despite this being a harmless form of greeting, which shows us that the highest Islamic ideal is to always work to minimize contact with the opposite sex. However, the evidence does not prohibit necessary touching, as in a doctor touching a person of the opposite sex during a medical procedure.

The exception on shaking hands

Scholars such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi permit shaking the hands of the opposite sex when meeting non-Muslims in order to prevent humiliating them by refusing the handshake, since in such cases avoiding humiliating the person takes priority over the no-touching rule. Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi mentions that while the Prophet PBUH never shook the hands of women, Umar [ra] did that, and Abu Bakr [ra] shook an old woman’s hands.